This much is certain: no all purpose definition of Fascism is possible. Mussolini’s was born republican and anti-clerical, hired by land-owners and industrialists, for the repression of workers; soon turned monarchist, and corporatist. Fascism found a good bed to lay down with the Fascist Popes: Pius XI and Pius XII – the latter a Nazi-sympathiser, all comfortable in ritual buffoonery, during 1922-43; it died ‘republican’ and ‘social’ under the wing of the German occupiers, 1943-45. Hitler’s was paid by big business, essentially pagan and anti-Christian, lasted twelve years of planned, unrelenting crime and genocide, 1933-45. Franco’s was National-Catholic, corporatist, luckier than the previous two to the point of becoming acceptable to the ‘western democracies’ – thirty nine years of blessed brutality, 1936-75. There are other examples, of course: Peron’s Argentina, Pinochet’s Chile, and others, too, of more different hue. They all share some common elements: anti-Communism, anti-Bolshevism, anti-Semitism – albeit in various degrees.
Sub-tropical – somewhat Friendly Fascism, if that should be the answer to the original question, presents many features common to other Fascisms – and some. Here they are, perhaps not in any specific order, but listed as constitutive essential elements:
– 1788, English invasion of Gondwana-New Holland-Australia, untouched by the ‘spirit of 1789’, as well as that of 1776; 140 years to 1928 of planned genocide of the original Black population, during decades of institutional racism; unbridled nationalism – only now and only implicitly still proclaiming the cultural superiority of the British system, from classist law to a putrescent monarchy, yet, still capable of censoring the production of a Royals’ spoof by the publicly-supported Australian Broadcasting Corporation;
– a stolid insularity which proclaims Australia = the Southern Hemisphere, with ‘the world’ out there – people oblivious to the political and economic upheaval which is going on beyond its borders;
– a continuous rhetoric of freedom, liberty, democracy, and – much later – human rights, clashing with a reality of preferring authority to liberty, hierarchy to equality, and deference to fraternity;
– a close alliance of the State and the corporate world and its fraudsters;
– the domination by huge foreign business – themselves with a tradition of supporting dictators all over the world;
– the support which must be needed to participate in a transnational business-military complex, as a supplier of senseless growth;
– irrationality – largely due to ‘imported values’ – in an atmosphere of know-nothing-ism in which conformism and formal adherence to the ‘values’ of the Judeo-Christian tradition are ‘safer’, although they may bring home varying degrees of anti-Semitism; but they serve to sustain inequality and authoritarianism, and a sense of resignation which goes with that ‘faith’, superstition, predestination, delusion, and life-gambling;
– a parliamentary system in which television performance by highly paid, studiously ‘beautiful’ actors respects the game of a decaying, morally and intellectually corrupt Westminster System;
– a central cabal to preside over a new coalition of concentrated oligarchic power and, in effect, unconcerned that pillaging over pillaging may cause shortages, pollution, unemployment, inflation and war;
– the growth of militarism as a ‘spirit of life’, early inculcated into subsequent generations through school and family;
– duty, honour and patriotism redefined to defend observation of such business-military-corporate-transnational-bellicose ‘values’;
– a close alliance of the State, the Church and the corporate world and its fraudsters;
– all of the preceding wrapped into a flag with mixes the reference to early tax evaders with the perennial British servitude expressed in the Union Jack’s treble crucifixion – surely, surely the surviving symbols of colonialism;
– an automatic aggressive, subservient, militaristic, ‘foreign policy’, which quietly transferred a state of vassalage from ‘the mother country’ to a Great-And-Powerful-Friend’, always subsuming a position of superior ‘biological determinism’ – better racial superiority vis-à-vis the neighbours;
– a readiness to intervene whenever the ‘leader of the free world’ calls – if need be with a lie as in Vietnam, or to ‘export democracy’ as in Iraq – but realistically to guarantee the availability of petroleum for the ‘free world’;
– a fragmented ‘society’ in which, it may be difficult to tell and persuade an indifferent populace that homelessness, unemployment, a high cost of surviving, and urban congestion, transport, decay, and filth are good for them, although it is not too difficult to have that populace tighten the belt on an austerity programme from which the bottomless wealthy are obviously excluded by the size of their ill-gotten possessions and through recourse to tax minimisation and perks;
– an organisation of the economy to serve international and domestic cartels under the illusion of a ‘market economy’, which amounts to nothing more than a corporativist economy;
– the proclivity of a populace to ‘quick solutions’ which always end up in reduction of government spending for social services, health, fire protection, employment prospects and – for the few who still care – libraries;
– all this of course in strict observance of the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in a multicultural and secular society without any concern that such mindless ‘communion’ may make no-sense, especially to those many given to an inordinate consumption of alcohol, and an increasing use of drugs and always with a structural passion for gambling;
– a militant anti-Communism – now revised as an anti-Muslim attitude – coupled with the fear of an extreme and imminent threat to ‘national security’, which justifies an even more secret police apparatus, practically unlimited by constitutional restrictions or legal requirements – there being no Bill of Rights and a colonial reliance on the common law;
– a duopoly in printed media and an oligopoly in other media totally controlled and curtseyed in fear of retribution by a band of Right-wing talking heads, or pens and noisy minions in the parliaments;
– an ‘education’ system which indoctrinates to incuriosity, imparted by well-dressed propagandists of ‘market values’, wondrous technology, and the virtues of hard time – under the cloak of acceptable ‘respectability’, while words such as ‘academic’ and ‘intellectual’ become an expression of contempt if not of an attribution of lunacy in a new world where language is debased, SMEssed, and increasingly closer to grunts;
– a ‘society’ in which what matters is a sum of trivia + conformity + search-for-quick-enrichment + success and ‘popularity’;
– the reliance on a pill-for-everything and technology for every need in peace as in war;
– an unquestioning confidence that violence can win in the end – preferably with bombs to kill people but to respect ‘real property’, or action from a distance on an automated battlefield;
– an innate disregard for any form of economic and or political planning because that is presented, inculcated, absorbed and regurgitated as ‘Socialism’ at best when not ‘Communism’;
– a national obsession for any sport and pomp and circumstance with the corollary passion for marching as substitute for thought: occasionally ‘slow march’, as the English do, and bag-pipes as the Scots do – but nothing original;
– the totally incredible but widely believed notion that in Australia there are some very rich, some poor – largely because refractory to work, and a large, overwhelming majority of people who are both ‘middle class’ and blessed by a unique form of class-collaboration;
– the rota-like repetition and mindless assertion, out of laziness and indifference, by an uncultured populace of the blessing of a multicultural society – a notion totally devoid of meaning and sense if by that one should accept populist cretinism and Government Philistinism as defining a multi-folkloristic circus.
* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.